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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Ulsan City Tour

Ulsan City Tour

For all of us that are new in town and even for those of you who aren’t so new, the Ulsan City Tour is a great way to spend a day during the weekend sightseeing.  Unfortunately, the majority of the tour is in Korean but at all the stops, the signs are in both Korean and English so you can at least read what you’re looking at and visiting.  You have to sign up and pay for the tour in advance on and thankfully the website can be translated into English.  It also requires you to have a bank account set up, which I don’t, so you can transfer money but if you don’t have one yet just do like I did and ask a friend to make the reservation for you and you reimburse them.  The tour is every weekend, weekdays as well but it’s a shorter tour, is aboard a double decker bus, lasts about 7 hours, and it’s only 10,000 Won.  This price includes admission to all locations you visit with the exception of the Whale Museum which is an additional 5,500 Won or lunch.  We stopped somewhere along the route at a traditional Korean restaurant.

The bus leaves promptly at 10 am from City Hall (She-tchoeng).  After an hour of weaving alongside the river through Ulsan, we pulled off the highway and went through an area that looked like a 3rd world country.  It was very trashy and run down.  Then all of a sudden we arrived at the Daegok Museum in the shape of a whale.  The museum, from what I understood, was an archeological dig site and unearthed many tombs as well as relics.  They also talk briefly about the dam, which I’m unsure about its significance (it might clean the water filtering into the river and/or it covered up or uncovered some old villages).  I’m still working on my Hangul.  Anyways, it teaches about the history of pottery making and tombs.  Shortly after leaving the museum, we stopped for an hour lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant (sitting on the floor, shared dishes, etc).

Different types of tombs

Different types of tombs

After lunch we were back on the bus for an hour ride, which provided a nice nap for me and the class trip that was also onboard, headed for Ganjeolgot Cape where the sun rises first in the entire Asian continent.  This location is on Ulsan’s list for top 12 scenic places to see and on New Year’s Eve thousand’s of tourist flock to this point to bring in the New Year.  It has a lighthouse as well as a small museum where you can see the lighthouse’s of South Korea.  The big attraction for this site is that it’s on the water and you have a great view of Ulsan’s industrial area as well as Jinha Beach.

After the Ganjeolgot Cape stop, we were back on the bus for a ride over to the Whale Museum via the industrial area.  I was pretty interested in seeing the industrial area since I’m from Oklahoma and we don’t have huge massive refineries (just the occasional oil refinery) and I was not disappointed by Ulsan’s industrial area.  It was kind of ugly actually.  It’s unfortunate that the city of Ulsan heads straight inland from this area rather than spread up and down the coast.  The coast could have be a main attraction for this city but not when you can’t see it due to refineries and the huge port, even the city near Jinha Beach is not what I would call inviting to tourists.  Nonetheless, the drive between the 2 points was interesting and we were awarded a nice view of an island which I learned that in the months of February and March one can simple walk to the island from the mainland, without taking your shoes off!  This has something to do with the water level (obviously), but I didn’t catch the whole explanation, oops!

So on to our last stop, the Whale Museum.  I had mixed feelings about going here because I wasn’t sure what this museum would be about: hail to the whale or hail to whaling.  I recently watched the documentary The Cave and was deeply disturbed by it so for those of you who have watched it may understand my apprehension.  As I suspected, the museum was about whaling and its history in Korea.  Mixed in were some interesting facts about whales but I was disturbed by how the museum came about some of their specimens and relics (as they called them) when they said they were donated by the Japanese when the whales were killed for researched.  As many of you may know, there is a big ongoing fight in the whaling world to stop the killing of whales.  Mainly the Japanese are the ones killing them, by the dozens, and claiming they are for research.  But back to the museum, it was also a little disturbing that they had preserved dolphin and whale fetuses on display while outside they were selling, and many people were eating, fried whale on a stick.  There was another building which was labeled as the whale experience yet it contained a small pool with 3 dolphins in which a tunnel ran through the pool that we could walk through.  There were also lots of small aquariums with lots of fish to see and good little kid activities.  All in all, not my favorite place since I got mixed signals as to the purpose of the museum but not a horrible place either.

The whaling boat is actually pointing at the whale, harpoon ready and aimed

Whale and dolphin fetuses

Well, that ended our Ulsan city tour and we were deposited safely back in front of City Hall.  It is definitely something I would recommend doing one weekend.